Reduce Distractions and Become a More Efficient Retoucher with These Tips

Reduce Distractions and Become a More Efficient Retoucher with These Tips

When it comes to photography, the most time consuming part of the process is the editing. Retouching a beauty photo can take 3 hours with no breaks. Because of this, I’ve been trying to find new ways to be more efficient without cutting corners.Below you will find some of the ways I’ve been able to cut out distractions and become more efficient with my retouching. These tips aren’t just for beauty work, they’re universal tips for all styles of work.

Use a Tablet

This is seriously the best way to cut down time with retouching. It doesn’t matter if it’s a WacomHuion, or any of the brands out there, the natural motions you get from a tablet are quicker and more accurate than using a mouse... I know it’s tough to learn when you first start, but I’ve been using one since I was in high school and if High School Dave could figure it out, so can you. If you're about to take the leap into a tablet, here's a video to help you get started.

Learn Your Keyboard Shortcuts

When I use Photoshop and Capture One, I try to keep my cursor in the artboard area as much as possible. Being able to switch tools without looking at the toolbar helps you keep your concentration on your work. Here is a quick resource to learn some of the more used hotkeys that every photographer should know.

Create Photoshop Actions for Your Workflow

My Dodge and Burn layers and Luminosity Masks are done in Photoshop Actions that are keyboard shortcuts linked to the function buttons. I create actions for every piece of my workflow that is setup exactly the same every time. Here is an article on how to create your own actions for your workflow.

Put Your Phone Away

When it comes to limiting distractions, nothing is better than getting rid of your phone. If I’m on a deadline crunch, I put my phone on Do Not Disturb and put it in another room or throw it in a drawer. For me, seeing a random notification can turn into a 10-15 minute session of playing Bricks & Balls.

No Visual Entertainment

Screenshot of podcasts on Spotify

I basically live off Spotify Premium and podcasts produced by The Ringer

For the longest time, I used 2 monitors, 1 for editing, 1 for entertainment. The problem is when it comes to efficiency, putting a Raptors game on the 2nd monitor isn’t the best way to stay focused on an edit. What I’ve found is podcasts and radio broadcasts of the games are still immersive enough for me and let me focus on what I'm doing at the same time.

I very recently removed the 2nd monitor and noticed there's a real jump in efficiency. Just having the second monitor there pushed me towards Reddit and Twitter when I should've been working.

Create a Separate Login Just for Work

When your personal PC and your work PC are the same, a great way to separate business vs personal time is by creating a separate login that has access to all the work apps and nothing else. You may have heard people say you should get a freelance office so you can always keep your work in a professional environment. This is the same thing… just for less successful people.

That may sound like an unnecessary step, but not having your personal bookmarks on Chrome and not seeing the Apex Legends logo on your desktop might keep you more focused on work-mode.

Get Comfortable, but Not Too Comfortable 

This is all about creating a professional mindset, similar to the last tip. If you’ve ever heard someone say “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have” it’s the same thing. You’re putting yourself into work mode by putting on real work clothes. Wearing gym shorts and no shirt might be more comfortable to wear in your home, subconsciously it puts you into a relaxing mood. Whereas wearing actual clothes makes you feel like you’re a part of the workforce. You don’t need to put on a dress shirt and khakis, but something that makes you feel like you’re actually about to do some work. I just put on what I'd wear to a photoshoot and I swear I feel different from doing that. 

Eat Clean Foods

When you’re working for long sessions, having a snack with you isn’t a bad idea. But when you eat something messy or greasy, it will not only make you feel worse later in the day but having to clean your hands after every Dorito will only distract you from your work. Lately I've been trying apple slices and broccoli with dip.

Get a Midi

Picture of the Loupedeck Keyboard

The Loupedeck uses Lightroom shortcuts mapped to knobs and switches to make an easier editing process.

Now this one is more for those who work in Lightroom a lot. There’s a lot of products out there that help you edit even faster in raw processors like Palette and LoupeDeck. If you have the space on your desk for a specialized keyboard, it could definitely be helpful. I could see an event photographer or wedding photographer really benefiting from one of these. Here's Fstoppers' review of the Palette system from 2017.

As a beauty photographer, most of my work is in Photoshop. What I would love is just a single scroll wheel or knob I could use to change brush size/hardness easily. If you’re looking for a new keyboard, this Logitech Craft Wireless Keyboard could be perfect for you if you’re willing at that price. I’ve also seen some photographers use this from Razer, but overall I don’t think for a MIDI system is there yet for heavy Photoshop users.

At the End of the Day

Efficiency in editing is very important as you grow as a retoucher. Being able to cut down on time without cutting corners is a skill you’ll need as you progress into more advanced techniques that take longer accomplish. Hopefully you can utilize some of these tips into your process and make your own retouching more efficient.

If you have any tips of your own, feel free to share them in the comments below! I would love to see what you do to cut down on your retouching time.

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14 Comments

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Love the Loupedeck+ for C1 and Aurora! Getting it really sped up my workflow in C1.

David Justice's picture

I definitely recommend trying them out if you spend a lot of time working in those environments like a wedding and event photographer. Most of my work in the program involves curves and layers, didn't make sense for me.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

I do neither lol and I do not use LR for that matter which is the main app LoupeDeck is associated with.

Regardless turning dials is alot faster for me.

Check out the Elgato Stream Deck. This is my single most loved piece of kit for my editing workflow.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

I only saw one in the store, never tested it. How do you use it for editing?

Come on Adobe, it's mid-2019 and you still can't easily customize shortcuts in LR Classic. For Mac, you can go into the system preferences and create an alias, even that is wonky. In Win, it's a total hack.

I haven't used a Bluetooth controller like a PS4 though it makes more sense to me than keyboard for ingest. It was highlighted a couple of years ago but one of the hurdles is shortcuts (see above). Custom keyboards are much easier (and affordable) to create today. I suspect there would be a custom keyboard available for LR a la midi/loupedeck if the customization was available.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

No visual entertainment is a tough one for me. If I don't see movement (Movies, TV Shows, Music Videos) on my peripheral vision, I feel like I'm gonna go nuts!

Keyboard shortcuts are a must! The simplest one of spacebar to switch to the hand tool saves more time than anything else

David Justice's picture

If you use a Wacom, I've seen people program the stylus button to be the space bar so you have the hand right there.

The old gamer in me probably couldn't handle that. I see the toggling of the hand tool like a crouch or jump which would be weird to have on the mouse/stylus. I do use a wacom but I only use one of the stylus buttons and it's for a right click.

Heratch Ekmekjian's picture

Thanks for a nice article. I appreciate the simple, yet potentially powerful suggestions.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

If you're still using a mouse, you may be able to customize the buttons for keyboard shortcuts.

Simon Carter's picture

Watching TV while working slows you down? Fancy that!!

Making a separate login is a pretty genius idea to get rid of any other distracting programs, etc.! I may have to try that.